Sab‘a Ahruf Hadith: Sab‘a Indeed Means Seven


Waqar Akbar Cheema


 One of the differences in the interpretation of ‘Sab‘a Ahruf’ hadith reports is whether sab‘a denotes the specific numeral or signifies an unqualified multitude. This paper analyses the phrase from a linguistic aspect besides exploring the details of the hadith reports bearing on this point. Opinions and proofs of certain past scholars are also critically examined.

1. Introduction

The Sab‘a Ahruf Hadith has been reported from several companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) including ‘Umar b. al-Khattab, Ubayy b. Ka‘b, Ibn ‘Abbas, Abu Bakra, Abu Huraira, Abu Juhaim, Ibn Mas‘ud, Hudhaifa, ‘Abdullah b. ‘Amr, Abu Talha, Umm Ayub, Samura b. Jundub, Ma‘adh b. Jabal, and ‘Uthman b. ‘Affan.[1]

There are dozens of opinions on the meanings of Sab‘a Ahruf. Some are convincing, some have a semblance of plausibility, others are farfetched, and some are altogether baseless and irrelevant. Moreover, they have details and implications mashed up to the point that some scholars had to give up on determining its implications while maintaining that it nevertheless provided the conceptual basis for the validity of multiple recitals (qira’at) of the Qur’an.[2]

Despite acknowledging that interpretation of Sab‘a Ahruf is more of an abstract academic exercise, efforts to intellectually realize its meanings continue to our day. Lately, some revisionist trends besides orientalist tropes have further invigorated the discourse on this significant hadith.

A key point of difference around the interpretation of this hadith is whether sab‘a (lit. seven) indeed signifies the number seven or does it denote unqualified multitude. The same is the focus of this short article.

2. Difference between sab‘a and sab‘in/ sab‘a-mi’ah in terms of implying a multitude

The word sab‘a evidently and expressly means seven, and its unmistakable sense is of the definite number. Whereas in specific contexts, the suggestion of unqualified multitude in other derivatives of the same root such as sab‘in (lit. seventy) or sab‘a-mi’ah (lit. seven-hundred) is tenable, the same is not evident for the word sab‘a.

A scholar at Riyadh University, Muhiyy Uddin Khalil al-Rih, penned a treatise highlighting the difference between the usage of the words sab‘in and sab‘a-mi’ah on the one hand and sab‘a on the other in terms of implying unqualified multitude. Based on his study of major Arabic dictionaries, he concluded one does not find evidence for such usage of the word sab‘a – the one of immediate significance here –  as one does for sab‘in and sab‘ami’ah in specific contexts.[3]

Even for the word sab‘in (lit. seventy), the meaning of unqualified multitude requires some contextual indication. An example often cited to suggest mere-multitude sense for sab‘ derivatives is the verse wherein Allah told the Prophet (ﷺ) regarding hypocrites; “Ask forgiveness for them or do not ask forgiveness for them — (even) if you ask forgiveness for them seventy times (sab‘in marrah) — Allah will not forgive them” (Qur’an 9:80). A related hadith, however, informs us that upon the revelation of this verse, the Prophet (ﷺ) remarked, “I will exceed seventy (sa-aziduhu ‘ala al-sab‘in).”[4] The hadith thus alerts us against ignoring the definite numeral sense in the above verse. However, the indefinite multitude connotation could be assumed because of the following verse: “And never offer a prayer on any one of them who dies, and do not stand by his grave” (Qur’an 9:84). Ibn Fawrak  (d. 406/1015) highlighted this point.[5] Likewise, Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani (d. 852/1449) observed that whereas other details to the incident tended to veil implicature of the stated numeral (mafhum al-‘adad) in this verse, it nevertheless remained unless it could be established that the word sab‘in had been used by way of hyperbole only.[6]

Likewise, wherever the word sab‘a is understood to imply unqualified excess, only the context clarifies the quantitative notion, as in the case of Qur’an 31:27 and the hadith about eating in one or seven intestines.[7]

Accordingly, even if agreed that the word sab‘a could convey the meanings of an unqualified multitude in some contexts, it is critical to note that such an interpretation is contingent upon some contextual or rhetorical evidence. Thus, in what follows, we discuss if the sab‘a ahruf hadith reports bear such proof.

3. Significance of syntactic form of the word ahruf

It is important to note that, unlike most other languages that have only singular and plural forms, Arabic has further categorization of the plural. While the dual form (tathniya) is well known, the plural beyond is also divided into plural of paucity (jam‘ al-qilla) and plural of abundance (jam‘ al-kathra), wherein the former expresses three to ten things and the latter denotes higher numbers.[8]

Regarding ahruf Abu ‘Amr al-Dani (d. 444/1053) writes:

الأحرف جمع حرف في الجمع القليل …

Ahruf is plural of paucity for harf …[9]

Accordingly, the syntactic form ahruf confirms that the word sab‘a did not imply unrestricted multitude in this construction.

It is significant to note that notwithstanding differences of context and wording, hadith narrations are unanimous in using the construction ‘sab‘a ahruf’. Thus, at least this part of the hadith can duly be considered mass transmitted to the letter (mutawatir bi al-lafdh) and, therefore, the word form ahruf – a plural of paucity – cannot be overlooked.[10]

4. Indications within narrations of the hadith

Many narrations on the subject include clear indications that sab‘a here means nothing but the definite number seven.

Ibn ‘Abbas’ report has;

أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: «أقرأني جبريل على حرف فراجعته، فلم أزل أستزيده ويزيدني حتى انتهى إلى سبعة أحرف»

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Jibril taught me to recite [the Qur’an] on a harf, whereupon I requested him (for more), and continued asking him to increase (the ahruf), and he kept increasing them for me till he ended up at seven (sab‘a) ahruf.”[11]

Here the simple fact of the Prophet (ﷺ) asking for the increase and the increase ultimately being capped at seven leaves no room for the suggestion of unqualified excess.

Likewise, in the hadith of Ubayy, the Prophet’s (ﷺ) description of his demanding for increasing the laxity in rounds is mentioned. One of the narrations of the hadith from Ubayy expands on the iterations in full detail.

عن أبي إسحاق، عن سقير العبدي، عن سليمان بن صرد، عن أبي بن كعب، قال: سمعت رجلا يقرأ، فقلت: من أقرأك؟ قال: رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم، فقلت: انطلق إليه، فأتيت النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، فقلت: استقرئ هذا، فقال: «اقرأ» فقرأ، فقال: «أحسنت» فقلت له: أولم تقرئني كذا وكذا؟ قال: «بلى، وأنت قد أحسنت» فقلت بيدي: قد أحسنت مرتين، قال: فضرب النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم بيده في صدري، ثم قال: «اللهم أذهب عن أبي الشك» ففضت عرقا، وامتلأ جوفي فرقا، فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: ” يا أبي، إن ملكين أتياني، فقال أحدهما: اقرأ على حرف، فقال الآخر: زده، فقلت: زدني، قال: اقرأ على حرفين، فقال الآخر: زده، فقلت: زدني، قال: اقرأ على ثلاثة، فقال الآخر: زده، فقلت: زدني، قال: اقرأ على أربعة أحرف، قال الآخر: زده، قلت: زدني، قال: اقرأ على خمسة أحرف، قال الآخر: زده، قلت: زدني، قال: اقرأ على ستة، قال الآخر: زده، قال: اقرأ على  سبعة أحرف، فالقرآن أنزل على سبعة أحرف “

It is narrated on the authority of Abu Ishaq: on the authority of Suqair al-‘Abadi, on the authority of Suleman b. Surd, on the authority of Ubayy b. Ka‘b said: I heard a person recite, and I asked him, who taught you this recitation? He said, ‘The Messenger of Allah.’ I said, ‘Let’s go to him.’ I came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and asked, ‘Tell him to recite.’ The Prophet (ﷺ) asked that man to recite, and he did upon which the Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘You did it correctly.’ At this, I asked him, ‘Had you not taught it to me like so and so?’ He said, ‘Yes, and you too recited it correctly.’ I moved my hands [disconcertly thinking] ‘You, [O Prophet] confirmed both!’ The Prophet (ﷺ) then struck my chest and said, ‘O Allah remove Ubayy’s doubt’ whereupon I broke into sweating and was terrified. The Messenger of Allah said, ‘Ubayy! Two angels came to me, and one said, ‘recite on a single harf’, and the other said, increase it for him. I, too, said: ‘increase it for me.’ The angel said, ‘recite on two harfs,’ the other angel again said, ‘increase it for him.’ I too said: ‘increase it for me,’ and he said, ‘recite on three harfs.’ The other angel again said, ‘increase it for him.’ I, too, said: ‘increase it for me [further].’ The angel said, ‘recite on four ahruf.’ The other angel said [yet again], ‘increase it for him.’ I, too, asked again: ‘increase it for me,’ and he said, ‘recite on five ahruf.’ The other angel again said, ‘increase it for him.’ I, too, said: ‘increase it for me [still].’ The angel said, ‘recite on six ahruf.’ The other angel said [once more], ‘increase it for him.’ and he said, ‘recite on seven ahruf.’ ‘Thus, [the Prophet said] Qur’an was revealed on seven ahruf.’[12]

Unlike this fuller version, some narrations of the hadith from Ubayy through the same Suleman b. Surd leave out the details by way of abridgement. One has that each time the angel returned to the Prophet (ﷺ) he gave him a choice between two counts of the harf and the Prophet (ﷺ) chose the higher one. After the mention of choice between two or three of which the Prophet (ﷺ) chose three, however, it says, “the matter reached up to seven ahruf.”[13] Another one significantly mentions “it continued thus” (hakadha) till it reached seven ahruf.[14]

Narrations through others from Ubayy also do not give the full details of the gradual increase. They, however, have clear signs that they have only omitted the steps in between and mentioned the outcome.

In narrations of the hadith from Ubayy through ‘Abdul Rahman bin Abi Laila, we have one mentioning the revelation on a single harf and right after that mentioning seven ahruf omitting mention of sequential increase from one to two up to seven.[15] Another mentions the angel “came for the second time and told him the same thing till it reached up to seven ahruf.”[16] One of the two narrations in Sahih Muslim has that after the mention of two harfs, the angel came and mentioned the seven ahruf, and the other has that the angel mentioned seven ahruf the fourth time he came.[17] Yet another has that after the mention of four ahruf, it was in his fourth returning [i.e. not counting the initial meet up] that Jibril said seven ahruf.[18]

It would be simply unreasonable to pick one of the narrations with an incomplete expansion of the detail as the actual one and push others into oblivion on one pretext or another.

The same is true for narrations of Ubayy’s report through Anas b. Malik. One says, “Jibril, said: ‘Recite the Quran on one harf.’ Mika’il said: ‘Teach him more, teach him more- until there were seven ahruf.[19] Another mentions Jibril telling the Prophet (ﷺ) to recite on three ahruf followed by the mention of both Mika’il and the Prophet (ﷺ) asking for the increase and that it happened “like that” (kadhalika) till the matter settled at seven ahruf.[20]

The same applies to the narrations of the hadith from Abu Bakra as they vary in preserving the details of intermediary stages. It is especially true of narrations through Hammad b. Salama from ‘Ali b. Zaid b. Jud‘an.[21] In one of the narrations, Jibril mentioning the seven ahruf follows the mention of one harf directly after Mika’il had asked for the increase.[22] In others, an increase from one harf to two harfs is also mentioned before it says “till it reached (up-to) seven ahruf” (hatta balagha (ila) sab‘a ahruf).[23]  Another report preserves the mention of turns of Jibril relaying the sanction of three, five, and six ahruf, each followed by request for an increase.[24]

The narration of another student of ‘Ali b. Zaid b. Jud‘an – ‘Abdul Warith b. Sa‘id – also recounts the mention of turns mentioning two, three and four ahruf after each of which Mika’il bid Jibril for the increase till it reached seven ahruf upon which Mika’il became silent (fasakata mika’il).[25] Al-Hasan b. Dinar’s report from ‘Ali b. Zaid has that after the mention of seven ahruf, the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “I looked at Mika’il, and he kept quiet, and so I learnt that the number had come to an end.” (fa-nazartu ila mika’il fasakata, fa-‘alimtu annahu qad-i’ntahi al-‘idda).[26] Al-Haithami further assures us in this ‘Ali b. Zaid b. Jud‘an has been corroborated as well (qad tawb ‘).[27]

Likewise, Hudhaifa’s report on the issue also has that Jibril mentioned a harf, then two harfs, and that each time Mika’il asked for the increase till it reached seven ahruf (hatta balagha sab‘a ahruf).[28]

Muhammad ibn Sirin’s mursal report has the final phrase “till it reached seven ahruf” preceded by the mention of two and three ahruf.[29]

These details, therefore, confirm that Ubayy’s narration mentioned above is unique only in expanding on the sequential increase from one harf to seven ahruf. Other reports also convey the same, albeit in a summary fashion.

That the hadith reports consistently use the preposition ‘ala [lit. upon/on] with sab‘a ahruf, some scholars have observed, suggests conditionality and thus affirms the specific numeral sense.[30]

Hadith of Abu Bakra, as recorded on the authority of Musaddad, uses the verb khudh (lit. take/hold) for instruction to receive Qur’an on sab‘a ahruf[31] , which underscores specification and limitation of its subject.

5. Opinions over time

It is important to note that many past scholars deliberated on the issue and recounted various opinions on the meanings of Sab‘a Ahruf they had known. For instance, Ibn Hibban al-Busti (d. 354/965) noted some thirty-five interpretations. Subsequently, Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597/1201) discussed only fourteen of these, all of which take the definite numeral sense.[32] Al-Qurtubi (d. 671/1273)[33] and Ibn Kathir (d. 774/1373)[34], in turn, chose to mention only five of them.  Before them, Abu Ubaid Qasim b. Sallam (d. 224/838),[35] al-Baqilani (d. 403/1013),[36] Makki b. Abi Talib (d. 437/1045),[37] al-Dani (d. 444/1053), Al-Mawardi (d. 450/1058),[38] and Ibn Atiya (d. 542/1148)[39], all discussed views but made no mention of any opinion departing the numeral implication of the word.

Al-Khattabi (d. 388/998), in his commentary to Sunan of Abu Dawud, giving meanings and discussion around sab‘a ahruf implying seven Arabic dialectics, however, mentions in a manner pointing implausibility another suggested opinion (wa qila fihi wajhan akhar) that it simply means to convey relaxation without it being restricted within the definite number.[40] Naturally, this is not a positive statement. Accordingly, in his later commentary work on Sahih of al-Bukhari,[41] al-Khattabi did not mention this opinion, although he devoted several pages to the subject.[42]

Likewise, in his commentary to Sahih Muslim, Qadi ‘Iyad (d. 544/1149) made a passing remark on sab‘a implying unqualified multitude being an opinion (wa qil: tawassa wa tas-hil wa lam yuqsad bihi al-hasr),[43] without engaging any further. Moreover, in his rather succinct take on the issue in his later work Mashariq al-Anwar, he did not refer to it, confirming that the opinion did not strike him.[44] Given this, Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani’s[45] and al-Suyuti’s[46] attribution of this opinion to Qadi ‘Iyad is a mistake.  Subhi al-Salih was thus rightly skeptical of this attribution.[47]

Abu Shama al-Maqdisi (d. 665/1267) mentions unrestricted multitude as one of the many meanings and makes contradictory assertions before showing his inclination. First, he favours an interpretation qualifying it with the hadith of asking for laxity in terms of the number of ahruf and says, “when it reached seven the Prophet (ﷺ) stopped as if he knew it did not require more words.” (falamma antaha ila sab‘a waqaf, wa ka’annahu sallalahu ‘alaihi wassalam alima annahu la yahtaju min alfazihi lafza ila akthara min dhalika ghaliban.)[48] But right after that, he dwells on the interpretation of sab‘a and, quoting al-Khattabi’s discussion that ends with the mention of unqualified excess as a possible interpretation, makes a favourable remark using Qur’an 9:80 to support this view.

It is also pertinent to note that Abu Shama was lead to this view by two alleged sayings that are neither authentic nor categorical in the implication to this effect.[49] One report that he attributed to both ‘Ali b. Abi Talib and Ibn ‘Abbas is quoted by al-Suyuti from the latter only. It was, however, in connection with a question about the meanings of certain words and the difference between them that Ibn ‘Abbas indicated how the Qur’an at times went against certain conventions of usage. In qualifying this remark then he mentioned that Qur’an had been revealed in the idiom of all Arabs (Allahu anzala al-Qur’an bi lughati kull hayy min ahya’ al-‘arab). He, therefore, only meant to highlight that Qur’anic usage of words could be following one or other convention among the Arabs.[50]

Likewise, the other report Abu Shama used has that when learning Qur’an in a single way became difficult for the masses, the Prophet (ﷺ) was allowed to teach all people according to their dialects (aqr’i kulla qawmin bi lughatihim). Abu Ahmad al-Hakim (d. 378/988) has preserved the fuller report attributed to Ibn ‘Abbas via the all dubious al-Kalbi-Abu Salih link.[51] The full report also has that after mentioning the sab‘a ahruf hadith the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Five of the ahruf are from the Hawazin tribes and the two from rest of the Arabs” (fa-khamsatun minha fi hawazin … wa harfan fi sair al-nas).[52] Here the arithmetic distribution of sab‘a undermines the conclusion Abu Shama had reached.

In any case, no one worth the name before Abu Shama al-Maqdisi (d. 655/1267) seems to have favoured this view, and its incongruence with multiple authentic hadith reports from the Prophet (ﷺ) makes it untenable in any case. Abu Shama also recognized the implication of the hadith, but he failed to appreciate it fully and consistently. While Burhan al-Din al-Baqa‘i (d. 885/1480) simply followed Abu Shama in this opinion,[53] it never became popular.  Scholars continued to assert that the word sab‘a here did mean the specific number highlighting that the suggestion of unqualified multitude meanings contradicted the evident import of hadith reports. Among them were Ibn al-Jazari (d. 833/1429),[54] al-Suyuti (d. 911/1505), [55]  ‘Abd al-Baqi al-Zurqani (d. 1122/1710),[56] al-Alusi (d. 1270/1854),[57]’ to name a few. Al-Alusi further highlighted that the syntactic word form ahruf also rendered it implausible.[58]

On the contrary, even among prominent early modern scholars, only Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi (d. 1332/1914) [59] and Mustafa Sadiq al-Rafi‘i (d. 1937)[60] positively held the unqualified multitude view. However, neither of them sought to engage with the hadith based and other arguments against this position.  Ibn ‘Ashur (d. 1393/1973) only recounted this as an opinion without supporting it.[61] Most recent and contemporary scholars, however, clearly vouched for the evident meanings of the specific number. These include Abd al-‘Azim al-Zurqani (d. 1948), [62]  Dr. Hasan Diya al-Din ‘Itr,[63] ‘Abd al-Fattah b. ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Qadi,[64] ‘Abd al-‘Aziz b. ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Qari’,[65] and Muhammad Taqi Usmani.[66]

In the end, one must note that past scholars who held that sab‘a could signify unrestricted multitude apparently did so to evade the never-ending discourse on the meanings of ahruf,[67] which is why they did not extrapolate it to other aspects of the qira’at.

6. Conclusion

There is no evidence to suggest the plausibility of departing from the evident numeral sense of the word sab‘a in the construction “sab‘a ahruf”, which is verbatim mass transmitted from the Prophet (ﷺ). The details of the hadith reports and syntactic word form ahruf confirm that the hadith that provides the conceptual basis for multiple recitations of the Qur’an is about seven ahruf.

The clarity is crucial for it forecloses many ways to manoeuvre the meanings of sab‘a ahruf on certain unprecedented revisionist lines that lead to questions on the Qur’anic text’s impeccability in terms of verbatim preservation and stability.[68]

The meaning of ahruf and other issues integral to understanding the hadith and the whole scheme and systems of recitations borne of it shall be subject of forthcoming articles in this series.

References & Notes:

[1] Some of these hadith reports are mentioned and referenced below. An exhaustive listing of narrations is due in a forthcoming article by this author.

[2] Al-Suyuti, Jalal al-Din, al-Dibaj ‘ala Sahih Muslim b. al-Hajjaj, (Khobar: Dar Ibn ‘Affan, 1996) Vol.2, 409

[3] Al-Rih, Muhiy al-Din Khalil, Kalimatan: al-‘Adad al-Sab‘a, al-‘Adad Sab‘un bain al-Mufassirin wa al-Muhaddithin wa Ahl al-Lugha, (Riyadh: Riyadh University, 1980) 16

[4] Al-Bukhari, Muhammad b. Isma‘il, al-Sahih, (Riyadh: Darussalam Publishers, 1997) Hadith 4670-4671

[5] Al-Zarkashi, Badr al-Din, al-Bahr al-Muhit fi Usul al-Fiqh, (Cairo: Dar al-Kutbi, 1994) Vol.5, 174

[6] Al-‘Asqalani, Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari bi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, (Beirut: Dar al-Ma‘rifa, 1379 AH) Vol.8, 336

[7] Al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, Hadith 5396

[8] Al-Fuyumi, Abu al-‘Abbas, al-Misbah al-Munir fi Gharib al-Sharh al-Kabir, (Beirut: Maktaba al-Ilmiyya, n.d.) Vol.2, 695

[9] Al-Dani , Abu ‘Amr, Jami‘ al-Bayan fi Qira’at al-Saba‘, (Sharjah: Sharjah University, 2007) vol.1, 105; also quoted in Al-Jazari, Shams al-Din, al-Nashr fi al-Qira’at al-‘Ashr, Edited by Khalid Hasan Abu al-Jud (Algiers: Dar al-Muhsin, 2016 ) Vol.1, 160

[10] Al-Qari, Mullah ‘Ali, Mirqat al-Mafatih Sharh Mishkat al-Masabih, (Beirut: DKI, 2001) Vol.5, 91

[11] Al-Bukhari, al-Sahih, Hadith 4991

[12] Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, (Beirut: Resalah Publishers, 2001) Hadith 21152; Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, (Cairo: Dar al-Hadith, 1995) Hadith 21051; classified as sahih by Hamza Ahmad al-Zain. Ahmad Shakir also graded the isnad as sahih. See, al-Tabari, Jami‘ al-Bayan, (Beirut: Resalah Publishers, 2000) Hadith 25; Shu‘aib al-Arna’ut and co. graded the isnad as weak due to Suqair al-‘Abdi highlighting that he was counted as trustworthy by Ibn Hibban alone who is known to do so for insufficient evidence. Others highlighted the fact that both al-Bukhari and Ibn Abi Hatim mentioned him without any adverse remarks. This fact even if not sufficient to consider one positively reliable at par with other narrators graded thus, nevertheless wards off much of doubt about a narrator especially when he has corroboration for his report which is true in this case as noted below. See, al-Bukhari, Muhammad b. Isma‘il, al-Du‘afa al-Saghir, Edited by Abu ‘Ainain, 7-8 (muqaddima); on this point see also, al-‘Uthmani, Zafar Ahmad, Qawa‘id fi ‘Ulum al-Hadith, Edited by ‘Abdul Fattah Abu Ghoddah, (Karachi: Idara al-Qur’an wa ‘Ulum al-Islamia, 1414 AH) 223, 358, 403-404; Ibn Qutlubagha also counted Suqair al-‘Abdi among the reliable. See, Ibn Qutlubagha, Zain al-Din Qasim, al-Thiqat mimman lam yaq‘ fi Kutab al-Sitta, (Sanaa: Markaz al-Nu‘man, 2011) Vol.5, 339-340 No. 5353; see also al-Shashi, Huthaim b. Kulaib, al-Musnad, (Madina: Maktaba ‘Ulum wa al-Hikam, 1410 AH) Hadith 1439; Ibn ‘Asakir, Tarikh Damishq, (Beirut: Dar al-Fekr, 1995) Vol.3, 379

[13] Al-Sijistani, Abu Dawud, al-Sunan, (Beirut: Resalah Publishers, 2009) Hadith 1477

[14] Al-Tahawi, Abu Ja‘far, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, (Beirut: Resalah Publishers, 1994) Hadith 3113; Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhid, (Morocco: 1387 AH) Vol.8, 283; al-Maqrizi, Imta‘ al-Asma‘, (Beirut: DKI, 1999) Vol.4, 254

[15] al-Shashi, al-Musnad, Hadith 1454;

[16] Al-Sijistani, Abu Dawud, al-Sunan, Hadith 1478

[17] Muslim b. Hajjaj, al-Sahih, Hadith 821-274 [1906]

[18] al-Shashi, al-Musnad, Hadith 1455;

[19] Al-Nasa‘i, Abu ‘Abdul Rahman, al-Sunan, (Halab: Makatab al-Matbu‘at al-Islamiyya, 1986) Hadith 941

[20] ‘Abd b. Humaid, al-Muntakhab min Musnad, (Riyadh: Dar al-Bilnisia, 2002) Hadith 164; al-Shashi, al-Musnad, Hadith 1425; al-Maqdasi, Diya, al-Ahadith al-Mukhtara, (Beirut: Dar al-Khadir, 2000) Hadith 1139

[21] True that ‘Ali b. Zaid b. Jud‘an (d. 131/749) has been criticized by many but the most plausible and balanced conclusion appears to be the one reached by al-‘Awni that except when at odds with a narrator more reliable his reports are worthy to be considered hasan. See al-‘Awni, Hatem Sharif, al-Mursal al-Khafi wa ‘Ilaqatuhu bi al-Tadlis, (Riyadh: Dar al-Hijra, 1997) 306-322; al-‘Awni (ed.), Ahadith al-Shuyukh al-Thiqat – Mashaikha Qadi Maristan, (Makkah: Dar ‘Alam al-Fawa’id, 1422 AH) Vol.2, 694.

[22] Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, (Resalah ed.) Hadith 20425; Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, (Dar al-Hadith ed.) Hadith 20304 – classified as hasan by Hamza Ahmad al-Zain;  (‘Abdul Rahman b. Mahdi from Hammad b. Salama)

[23] Ibn Abi Shaiba, al-Musannaf, (Beirut: Dar Qurtuba, 2006) Hadith 30747; al-Bazzar, Abu Bakr, al-Musnad, (Madina: Maktaba al-‘Ulum wa al-Hikam, 1997) Vol.9, 91 Hadith 3622; al-Tabari, Jami‘ al-Bayan, Hadith 40, 47 (Zaid b. Hubab from Hammad b. Salama); Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, (Resalah ed.) Hadith 20514; Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, (Dar al-Hadith ed.) Hadith 20393 – classified as hasan by Hamza Ahmad al-Zain; Al-Tahawi, Abu Ja ‘far, Sharh Mushkil al-Athar, Hadith 3118 (‘Affan b. Muslim from Hammad b. Salama)

[24] Al-Dani, Abu ‘Amr, al-Ahruf al-Sab‘a li al-Qur’an, Edited by ‘Abdul Muhaimin Tahhan (Makkah: Maktaba al-Manara, 1408 AH) Hadith 7; al-Dani, Abu ‘Amr, Jami‘ al-Bayan fi Qira’at al-Sab‘a, (Sharjah: Sharjah University, 2007) 99-100 No. 42 (Yahya b. Sallam from Hammad b. Salama)

[25] Al-Busiri, Ahmad b. Abi Bakr, Itḥāf al-Khayyirah al-Muhrah bi-Zawāʼid al-Masānīd al-ʻAsharah, (Riyadh: Dar al-Watan, 1999) Vol.6, 317 Hadith 5927. Al-Busiri quotes it from now extinct Musnad of al-Musaddad (d. 228/842) of Basra who relates it directly from ‘Abdul Warith.

[26] Al-Dani, Abu ‘Amr, al-Ahruf al-Sab‘a li al-Qur’an, Hadith 7; al-Dani, Abu ‘Amr, Jami‘ al-Bayan fi Qira’at al-Sab‘a, 99-100 No. 42

[27] Al-Haithami, Nur al-Din, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id wa Manba‘ al-Fawa’id, Edited by Hussain Salim al-Darani, (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2015) Vol.14, 528 Hadith 11619; (also al-Haithami, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, (Cairo: Maktabah al-Qudsi, 1994) Vol.7, 151, (No. 11571)); the corroboration, however, is not preserved for the published sections of Mu‘jam al-Kabir of al-Tabarani  do not have this report though al-Haithami mentioned that it was and went on note the difference of wording between it and version of the same report with Ahmad b. Hanbal in his Musnad. Musnad of Abu Bakra is from the lost parts of al-Tabarani’s Mu’jam.

[28] al-Bazzar, al-Musnad, Hadith 2908; al-Haithami mentions its narrators are all that of al-Sahih except ‘Asim b. Bahdala about whom there is some critique but one that does not harm [as in, it does not truly impeach his credibility]. See, al-Haithami, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2015) Vol.14, 524 Hadith 11615

[29] al-Tabari, Jami‘ al-Bayan, Hadith 55; also, Sa‘id b. Mansur, al-Tafsir min al-Sunan, (Riyadh: Dar a-Somaie, 1997) Hadith 55; Sa‘id b. Mansur’s report, however, has a mistake in that it reads as if Mika’il recited and Jibril asked for an increase every time which is against all other reports on the subject. Al-Tabari’s report has it right that Jibril mentioned ahruf and Mika’il asked for the increase. Sa‘id b. Mansur’s report also mentions that after the angel mentioned, “read on seven ahruf” both the Prophet (ﷺ) and the angel became quiet. Cf. narrations of the hadith from Abu Bakra in Musnad of Musaddad and the one through al-Hasan b. Dinar.

[30] ‘Abd al-‘Aziz b. ‘Abd al-Fattah, Hadith al-Ahruf al-Sab‘a – Dirasah Hadithiya Qur’aniya, (Beirut: Resalah Publishers, 2002) 72

[31] Al-Busiri, Itḥāf al-Khayyirah al-Muhrah, Vol.6, 317 Hadith 5927

[32] Ibn al-Jawzi, Jamal al-Din, Funun al-Afnan fi ‘Uyun ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, (Beirut: Dar al-Basha’ir, 1987) 200-220

[33] Al-Qurtubi, Abu ‘Abdullah, al-Jami‘ li Ahkam al-Qur’an, (Cairo: Dar al-Kutab al-Misriyya, 1964) Vol.1, 42-46

[34] Ibn Kathir, ‘Imad al-Din, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Azim, (Riyadh: Dar al-Taiba, 1999) Vol.1, 45-46

[35] Abu ‘Ubaid, Qasim b. Sallam, Fada’il al-Qur’an, (Beirut: Maktaba al-‘Asriyya, 2009) 124, 127

[36] Al-Baqilani, Abu Bakr, al-Intisar li al-Qur’an, (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, 2001) 367-393

[37] Makki b. Abi Talib, Abu Muhammad, al-Hidaya fi Bulugh al-Nihaya, (Sharjah: Sharjah University, 2008) Vol.4, 3131; Makki b. Abi Talib, Abu Muhammad, al-Ibana ‘an Ma’ani al-Qira’at, (Cairo: Dar al-Nahdah Misr, n.d.) 71-80

[38] Al-Mawardi, Abu al-Hasan, al-Nukat wa al-‘Uyun, (Beirut: DKI, n.d.) Vol.1, 29-30

[39] al-Gharnati, Ibn ‘Atiyya, al-Muharrar al-Wajiz fi Tafsir al-Kitab al-‘Aziz, (Beirut: DKI, 1422 AH) Vol.1, 43-48

[40] Al-Khattabi, Abu Suleman, Ma‘alim al-Sunan, (Halab: Matb‘a al-‘Ilmiyya, 1932) Vol.1, 293

[41] Al-Khattabi, ‘Alam ul-Hadith, (Makkah: Jami‘a Umm al-Qura’, 1988) Vol.1, 101 (muqaddima) wherein he mentioned how some of his fellows asked him for commentary to Sahih al-Bukhari after he had dictated to them explanation of hadith reports in Sunan Abu Dawud.

[42] Al-Khattabi, ‘Alam ul-Hadith, Vol.2, 1207-1211

[43] Al-Yahsubi, Qadi ‘Iyad, Ikmal al-Mu ‘allim bi Fawa’id al-Muslim, (Mansura: Dar al-Wafa, 1998) Vol.3, 187

[44] Al-Yahsubi, Qadi ‘Iyad, Mashariq al-Anwar ‘ala Sihah al-Athar, (Cairo: Dar al-Turath, 1333 AH) Vol.1, 188

[45] Al-‘Asqalani, Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari bi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol.9, 23

[46] Al-Suyuti, Jalal al-Din, al-Itqan fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, (Cairo: al-Ha’iyah al-Misriyya, 1974) Vol.1, 164 (Section 16)

[47] Al-Salih, Subhi, Mabahith fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, (Beirut: Dar al-‘Ilm lil Malayin, 2000) 104

[48] Al-Maqdisi, Abu Shama, al-Murshad al-Wajiz ila ‘Ulum tata‘luq bi Kitab al-‘Aziz, (Beirut: Dar al-Sader, 1975) Vol.1, 96

[49] Al-Maqdisi, Abu Shama, al-Murshad al-Wajiz ila ‘Ulum tata‘luq bi Kitab al-‘Aziz, Vol.1, 96-97, 99

[50] Al-Suyuti, Jalal al-Din, al-Durr al-Manthur fi Tafsir al-Ma’thur, (Cairo: Markaz Hijr, 2003) Vol.5, 211 (under Qur’an 5:6)

[51] Al-Suyuti, Jalal al-Din, Tadrib al-Rawi fi Sharh Taqrib al-Nawawi, (Riyadh: Dar al-Tayba, n.d.) Vol.1, 198

[52] Al-Hakim, Abu Ahmad, Ma atsal ilaina min Fawa’id Abi Ahmad al-Hakim, (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, 2004) 166 No. 54

[53] Al-Baqa‘I, Burhan al-Din, Masa‘id al-Nazar li al-Ashraf fi Maqasid al-Su’ar, (Riyadh: Maktaba al-Ma‘arif, 1987) 388-389

[54] Al-Jazari, al-Nashr fi al-Qira’at al-‘Ashr, Vol.1, 165

[55] Al-Suyuti, al-Itqan fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, Vol.1, 164-165

[56] Al-Zurqani, ‘Abdul Baqi, Sharh ‘ala Muwatta al-Imam Malik, (Cairo: Maktaba al-Thaqafa al-Diniya, 2003) Vol.2, 9

[57] al-Alusi, Shahab al-Din, Ruh al-Ma‘ani fi Tafsir al-Qur’an wa Sab‘a al-Mathani, (Beirut: DKI, 1415) Vol.1, 21

[58] Al-Alusi, Ruh al-Ma‘ani, Vol.1, 21

[59] Al-Qasimi, Jamal al-Din, Mahasin al-Ta’wil, (Beirut: DKI, 1418 AH) Vol.1, 178-182

[60] Al-Rafi‘i, Musatafa Sadiq, I‘jaz al-Qur’an wa al-Balagha al-Nabawiya, (Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi, 2005) 51

[61] Al-Tunisi, Ibn ‘Ashur, al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir, (Tunis: Dar al-Tunisia, 1984) Vol.1, 57

[62] al-Zurqani, Muhammad ‘Abdul ‘Azim, Manahil al-‘Irfan fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, (Cairo: ‘Isa al-Babi al-Halabi, n.d.) Vol.1, 149-150

[63] ‘Itr, Hasan Diya’ al-Din, al-Ahruf al-Sab ‘a wa Manzila al-Qira’at Minha, (Damascus: Dar al-Basha’ir al-Islamiyya, 1988) 74-76, 129-131

[64] Al-Qadi, ‘Abd al-Fattah b. ‘Abd al-Ghani, “Abhath fi Qira’at al-Qur’an al-Karim,” included in al-A‘mal al-Kamila li Shaikh al-‘Allama ‘Abd al-Fattah bin ‘Abd al-Ghani al-Qadi, (Jeddah: Ma‘had al-Imam al-Shatiby, 2014) Vol.5, 371

[65] ‘Abd al-‘Aziz b. ‘Abd al-Fattah, Hadith al-Ahruf al-Sab‘a – Dirasah Hadithiya Qur’aniya, 52, 71-72

[66] Usmani, Muhammad Taqi, ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, (Karachi: Makataba Dar al-‘Ulum, 2014) 103-104

[67] Al-Hamd, Ghanim Quduri, “al-Liqa’ al-‘Ilmi ma‘ Shibkat al-Tafsir” (www.tafseer.net) September 10, 2005  (pp. 31-32)

[68] A representative assertion to this end is found in, al-Harithi, Silwa bt. Ahmad Muhammad, “Ma’ani Qawl al-Nabi sallalu ‘alaihi wasallam ‘anzala al-Qur’an ‘ala Sab’a Ahruf’ – ‘anzala’, ”ala sab’a’, ‘ahruf'”, Mujalla al-Dirayah, Cairo: Al-Azhar University, 19:2 (Spring 2019),734-742

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Waqar Akbar Cheema

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